I’m not going to go on a big introduction about how Bruce Springsteen changed my life and such (though he did in many ways) and the impact of his 3rd and 4th albums on the pop universe as we know it. We don’t have the space. So I’ll just get to the meat of this quite stunning 30th Anniversary-ish box set tribute to Darkness on the Edge of Town. I purchased the deluxe version, which includes 3 CDs and 3 Blu-ray Discs. The live-without-audience Blu-ray Disc of the core E-Street Band performing all of Darkness in 2009 is heartfelt and compelling. Amazing 1978 “Thrill HIll” video vault studio performance material is rounded out with a complete three-hour show from Houston. The video quality on the latter is OK, but the sound is excellent for the time period. The digital remaster of Darkness sounds big and crisp on CD and will be nice for rocking out in the car (but I still prefer even my original LP pressing purchased in 1978, which sounds warmer and truer played on my Music Hall 7.1 turntable w/ Bellari Phono preamp). There is also a documentary on the making of Darkness all housed in a wonderful notebook-style ring binder reproducing Bruce’s lyrics and such. I even got a spiffy fine Egyptian cotton commemorative 1978 tour t-shirt!
But really, the guts of this Darkness reissue is the inclusion of the two disc set of previously unreleased recordings from the Darkness period, now called The Promise.
Any serious Springsteen fan will be familiar with some of this material from different versions they heard via radio broadcasts, at live concerts, on single B-sides, and earlier Bruce box sets. That said, these lost songs now fully fleshed out on The Promise are no less than revelatory in stature. In fact, when The River came out I was actually disappointed that only a handful of songs from that period saw the light of day (“Independence Day,” “Point Blank,” “The Ties That Bind,” “Sherry Darlin’,” etc.).
So it is with great excitement that we get to finally hear these 21 fantastic lost songs. If Magic and Working on a Dream were a return to form for Bruce (in a Born to Run sensibility), The Promise is the icing on a very tasty triple-layer cake, sounding like a missing link to those newer recordings. Words like “majestic” and “dramatic” are not hyperbole. Bruce even says in the liner notes “Music, Music, Music, big choruses, big melodies, rich arrangements, that is the direction I initially started to go in the aftermath of Born to Run” but “Darkness was also written and recorded at the height of the punk explosion.” So he stripped things down to its raw roots, leaving these songs behind for 30 years. Much of The Promise features full horn sections, extensive backing vocals and harmonies and even strings! This is first class vintage Bruce: “Gotta Get That Feeling,” “The Brokenhearted,” “Outside Looking In,” “Breakaway,” etc. “Someday (We’ll Be Together)” is so rich it sounds like an out take from Working on a Dream.
This album is so important, I am going to spend the extra $60 and buy the 3 LP version of this set because I think its crucial to have a definitive copy of this material. I can’t say that about most of Bruce’s albums after Tunnel of Love until Magic. This stuff is a Holy Grail of Brucedom!
For more information visit http://www.brucespringsteen.net/news/index.html